Home > Bengal Festival, Calcutta (Kolkata), General, Kolkata (Calcutta) Festival > Fanush Making ~ Making of paper made hot air balloons

Fanush Making ~ Making of paper made hot air balloons

Fanush Making

~ Making of Paper Made Hot Air Balloons ~

The following documentation is made at the Dutt family at Bholanath Dham, Beadon Street, Calcutta

Also see Fanush at Bholanath Dham 2010 and Sachin Mukherjee’s Fanush

Fanush Making at Bholanath Dham ~ Ajoy Dutt and P K  mullick

Fanush Making at Bholanath Dham ~ Ajoy Dutt and P K Mullick

Fanush, paper made hot air balloon, was once the integral part of North Calcutta (Kolkata) “Babu” Culture. Today the art of Fanush making is a dying art as the new generation has shifted its attention into other sources of entertainment.

The Fanush operates in the same principle of a hot air balloon. The air inside the Fanush is heated by a cloth rag ball (locally called Luti) soaked in spirit. The Luti is attached to the base of the Fanush.

Apart from the conventional balloon shape the fanush also came in a host of different shapes, like pitchers, stars, footballs, ducks, kettles and even the planet of Saturn.

Tricks of the Trade: Paper is the basic raw material of fanush and the tricks of the trade are simple. Scale for measuring, pens for marking and scissors for cutting are the main tools needed. The pasting is done by wheat flour added with a dash of copper sulphate (locally called tunte).

Fanush Making ~ Tricks of the Trade

Fanush Making ~ Tricks of the Trade

The rim is fitted with a bamboo slice frame and metallic wires are used to fix the spirit soaked rag ball (locally called luti). Paper wights and clips also comes handy.

Planning: Planning is the integral part of fanush making. Stencils (locally called chant), preserved by the family for decades, are used for cutting the paper into shape.

Fanush Making ~ Planning

Fanush Making ~ Planning

Although the chant plays a integral part in fanush making but the fanush makers often used indigenous techniques and simple mathematics for creating the fanush. For example the football consists of hexagons and pentagons are drawn geometrically with the help of scale and protector.

Measuring, Cutting and Pasting: Measuring, cutting and pasting are the major three functions and it looks simple, but in reality the simple operation takes years to master, especially the art of pasting which require two skilled fanush makers.

Fanush Making ~ Measuring, Cutting and Pasting

Fanush Making ~ Measuring, Cutting and Pasting

The pasting is done by an home made glue made out of wheat flour and is made insect proof by adding a dash of cobalt sulphate (locally called tunte).

Fixing the Frame and Testing: A frame made out of bamboo slice is fixed at the base of the fanush by using the same glue, but a different composition. After which air is blown into the fanush by a table fan for checking of leaks. The leaks found are plugged by using the same colour paper.

Fanush Making ~ Fixing of frame and checking of leaks

Fanush Making ~ Fixing of frame and checking of leaks

After the checking is complete and leaks are plugged. After that two metallic wire are attached diametrically across the circular bamboo frame. The wires intersect at the centre where the spirit soaked rag ball (luti) is attached moments before the take off.

Fanush Flying: Probably letting of the fanush requires more skill than making it. First a flaming torch is inserted into the fanush to inflate it. After the fanush inflates the spirit soaked rag ball (luti) is tied at the bottom. The pressure builds inside the fanush and several person holds on to it. who lets it off at the right moment.

Left: Fixing the luti, Right: Inflating the fanush

Left: Fixing the luti, Right: Inflating the fanush

According to tradition the fanush is let off from the courtyard (uthon). The fanush makes it way through the narrow shaft of the house, in lightning speed, up towards the heaven. However to add some variation few fanush are let off from the terrace.

Up she goes......

Up she goes……

Reference:

Special Thanks:

  • Special thanks to Mr. Ajoy Dutt of Bholanath Dham who allowed me to photograph and document the entire fanush making process.
  • Also thanks to all the members of the Bholanath Dham Dutt family.
  • Also thanks to Mr P K Mullick a friend and neighbor of the Dutt family, who plays an active role in fanush making.
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  1. Ishita Roy
    November 14, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    Ah! Indeed, the labour that goes into making a Fanush is bountifully rewarded when the beauty soars high up in the sky. :-)

    • November 14, 2012 at 3:41 PM

      Right Ishita, let the legacy of fanush making and flying survive for ever.

  2. Mahua Datta
    November 14, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    Nice work Rangan….we need more of your research…..we should have some events around this dying art…..may be a day when we do a workshop on the same and fly a lots of them to fill up the Kolkata sky

    • November 14, 2012 at 11:13 PM

      Thanks Mahua for your comment and suggestion.

      But you are late in your marketing strategy. Recently hundred of funush were released in the CK – CL block in Slat Lake just before the Kali Puja. These fanush are much user friendly and can be let off just like a rocket firework.

  3. biohazardahuja
    November 16, 2012 at 1:07 AM

    Interesting post, & well researched too!! Especially loved the photographs :)

    • November 16, 2012 at 1:49 PM

      Thanks biohazardah (Sahil). Happy blogging….

    • May 28, 2014 at 11:21 PM

      Sir please tell me the paper that are used for fanus making.Are this is used by the kite paper?

    • May 28, 2014 at 11:23 PM

      Dear Sanat Biswas, kite paper is used for fanush making.

  4. November 21, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    Read this interesting article. I wish instead of the Sabdo Baji polluting our environ, the karigars could be trained and the patrons brain-washed to shift to this joyful sport. It would be so pretty to watch the kali puja night sky lit up with these lighted balloons and no ear-splitting noise to accompany.

    • November 25, 2012 at 1:19 PM

      Thanks Sushmita, may your dream come true.

  5. Rajat
    December 1, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    Hi, I am Rajat from South Kolkata. I am keenly interested of making Fanush. Couple of years back I have tried to fly a fanush built my myself buy couldnt able to fly. This year on 22nd Nov 2012 I have successfully flown 03 numbers of fanush, which is made by myself. But I am consern regarding safety issues. I am not getting enough confidence to fly more fanush for that reason. Can you give me any contact number of ameture fanush maker so that I can share my knowledge regarding safety. Thanks & Regards Rajat. Email: mallick.rajat@gmail.com. M:0-9674486684.

    • December 4, 2012 at 9:55 PM

      Rajat I have send you the contact in your mail.

      Looking forward to see your fanush take the skies !!!!!

      • December 5, 2012 at 12:34 PM

        অনেক ধন্যবাদ

  6. December 4, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Rangan, thank you very much for this brilliant documentation of making of ‘Fanush’.

  7. tamal das
    January 1, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    Hi Rangan, I am interested in making Fanush on my own effort. Would you teach me how to make fanush? Making of firecrackers is my hobby and I can make almost all the firecrackers found in market. Please reply me soon. I am eager to learn it.

    • January 1, 2013 at 12:40 PM

      Hi Tamal, thanks for your mail. I don’t know how to make a fanush. But do send me a email I will send you the contact of the required person.

  8. lutu
    February 19, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    Thanks for your effort to teach interested person about fanush.Just I want to know minimum diameter of rim,minimum length of baloon or paper,minimum sige of spirit soaked rag ball is reqired to make a fanush.Is it mandatory bamboo made ring/circle is necessary.If I use thine or light metalic waire to make ring/circle instead of bamboo then what about It.I am agerly waiting for your reply.Best wishes and thanks onech again.LUTU,BANGLADESH.

    • February 19, 2013 at 9:00 PM

      Thanks Lutu for showing interest in fanush making. Actually I don’t have any skill in fanush making, but I am sending the contact of fanush maker Ajoy Dutt in you email.

  9. vishalrathod76
    April 6, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    Thanks for detailed ans step by step guide to make this beautiful thing called fanush . I will definitely try making this one .

    Travel India

    • October 20, 2013 at 10:53 PM

      Thanks Vishal, all the best with your fanush making!!!

  10. October 29, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    Wow! Thanks Rangan DA! Interesting info. Did not know there is such beautiful fanush here. I still remember when we were kids during the Moon Festival, some Chinese used to make paper lantern which used to float in the air just like the fanush. also some interesting info from the net regarding fanush.

    Around 220 AD, one of the Shu Han king’s advisors, Zhuge Liang or Zhuge Kongming, used the same idea to invent an early hot air balloon. During one of the many wars of the Three Kingdoms period, Zhuge designed a light to confuse the enemy: he put an oil lamp inside a large paper bag, and the hot air trapped inside the paper bag lifted the bag so it floated in the air. The light frightened the enemy and helped the Shu Han to win the battle. People started to call this kind of hot air balloon “Kongming’s Light”.

    By about 1200 AD, when the Mongol Empire ruled China, these hot air balloons were popular at fairs and festivals, where crowds of people would gather to watch big paper balloons float up into the air. Mongol armies, learning about these balloons from Chinese people, began to use hot air balloons shaped like dragons either as battle flags or maybe as signals.

    • November 14, 2013 at 4:28 PM

      Thanks Pouchong (Dominic) Lee for sharing the info on Chinese Sky Lanterns.

      With the revival of Calcutta Chinatown on the cards is it not possible to bring back the lost Chinese art back to life again????

      Hope to see the Calcutta Chinatown sky dotted with sky lantern during the next moon festival.

  11. November 5, 2013 at 12:06 AM

    Hello sir i m planning to arrange a fanush show in my son’s first birthday so pls help me out with the concern person’s number whom i need to contact. Please send me the deatils in my mail as soon as possible..Thanks

    • November 14, 2013 at 4:05 PM

      Thanks Vishal for your mail. The fanush featured in my blog are not made commercially.

      You can try out the Bagri Market for ready to use fanush.

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